Emily Rastl ’12 has a love of language, and it’s what influenced her direction in college and her professional career. Emily considered library science as a major; however, that career path would require a master’s degree and she was still deciding on an undergraduate degree. She began kicking around the idea of another way to study language in a way that was practical for a career and had good job potential. Taking into considering her fondness for mathematics, Emily decided on a computer science major.
Emily admits it was intimidating being in IT classes with mostly male students who already had some programming background. However, she found that with determination and focus, she could learn and perform in the classroom just as well. She worked as a teaching assistant, and found the faculty very supportive. “I think they were happy to see a female student engaged in IT,” she recalls.
She joined the Association of Information Technology Professions (AITP) student chapter at USI, and became very active within the organization her junior and senior years. The club traveled to the 17th annual AITP National Collegiate Conference in San Antonio, Texas, where there were more than 500 students from across the United States representing 71 colleges and universities. Emily and fellow USI student Jeff VanVorst took first place out of 97 teams in the Office Solutions Competition. Emily got the highest score at the conference on the Associate Computer Professional Certification Examination. She was one of only nine students who passed it of the more than 60 students who attempted the exam.
Emily remarked that programming languages really aren’t that different from spoken languages. A natural progression for her was challenging herself to learn a new foreign language during her time on campus. She already had a solid background in Spanish, so she decided to give Japanese a try, and became active in USI’s Japanese Club.
Emily now works as a web programmer with a small publishing house. She said the classes in her major prepared her well for her career, because she can apply what she learned in the classroom to solve business problems. She programs mostly in C# and Visual Basic languages, uses a content management system for modifications and web development, and does database work in SQL. In addition to a knowledge of programming languages, she said someone in an IT field needs some level of math proficiency. “But it’s mostly a lot of logic and problem solving skills,” she emphasizes.
Emily chose to work for a small company and especially enjoys the wide variety of IT tasks that she and her teammates do to ensure the functionality of the eCommerce website. When asked about the most satisfying part of her position, Emily said she enjoys working on projects. She likes digging into a problem, figuring out what needs to happen, and then solving the problem by writing a complicated SQL code or building online functionality. She laughs, “But it can also be the most frustrating part – when something doesn’t work only to discover there’s one missing comma in a string of code.”
Her advice for college students is not to be afraid to take risks or to try something new like a different major even if you are unsure. If it doesn’t work out, it’s ok to change direction.
Published April 25, 2016